It’s the semifinals in the World Baseball Classic and there are still a couple starters from Pittsburgh in the tournament. First off, if you haven’t been watching the WBC I HIGHLY SUGGEST THAT YOU DO! It’s playoff baseball in the middle of March! There have been a record number of walk off and extra inning games. The players are taking it seriously, the fans are taking it seriously, and it’s just plain fun (even with the world’s dumbest extra-inning rule). The Pittsburgh Pirates had 7 players play in the WBC over the last week. Eric Wood (Canada), Francisco Cervelli (Italy), and Jared Lakind (Israel) are all back at camp because their respective teams have been eliminated. Four starters made it to the quarterfinals but now two are headed to camp and the others are going to the semifinals.
Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte have been alternating as the Dominican Republic’s center fielders. Starling Marte injured his ankle when he played Pittsburgh in an exhibition match before the actual tournament. The injury was not serious and he ended up starting the second game of the WBC. He has since started three games and had a one big game. Marte had a single, a double, and a big solo home run against Team USA to help secure the Dominican’s advance to the quarterfinals. He cooled off in his last two games, including striking out in a big scoring opportunity against the USA. In the end his final stat line was .250/.250/.583 (avg/obp/slg) in 12 at bats.
Gregory Polanco has also held his own at the plate and in the field. He hasn’t made any blunders in the outfield, unlike Marte who collided with Nelson Cruz to allow Team USA to take the lead (in their first match). Polanco is hitting eighth but has actually been the best hitter on a STACKED Dominican team. Polanco played in five games and had at least two hits in every game. Overall, in 19 at bats he was hitting .579/.619/.842 with two doubles, a home run, two RBIs, and three runs scored.
Josh Harrison and Andrew McCutchen are both playing for Team USA. Harrison has played in two games, one of them an appearance in a blowout win against Canada. He hasn’t had a hit or walk in five at bats and struck out in a crucial situation against Puerto Rico. Although Harrison hasn’t been used much yet, it is expected that he will be used as an utility man when the occasion requires it. There is a lot of talent on Team USA but I’m pretty sure he’s the MVD (Most Valuable Dancer).
Andrew McCutchen has started four of America’s six games, playing primarily right field. He did not man the left field of Marlins Park very well. It illustrated why the front office did not want him in left field at PNC Park. He didn’t look nearly as lost in the right field of Petco Park. Until last nigth Cutch hadn’t looked great at the plate but he’s obvioulsy hit better than his (albeit small sample size) stats suggest. Until Saturday night he had only one hit and had struck out four times. He was even thrown out of the Puerto Rico – US game when he argued an EXTREMELY QUESTIONABLE (i.e. not) strike call. Andrew made up for though in Saturday’s game.
The USA team lost to Puerto Rico on Friday night, setting up an elimination game between the Dominican and the United States. If you haven’t seen the highlights of this game…..GO WATCH NOW. For those of you too lazy to click the link, the game started off very poorly and it was a miracle that the Dominican team didn’t score more than two runs in the first inning. After that the Americans fought back to tie it up. It remained scoreless until Giancarlo Stanton hit the fourth fastest recorded home run to make it four to two. Manny Machado then hit a homer to center field…except his teammate Adam Jones said “Oh, hell no!” and robbed him.
In the top of the eighth the lead had been cut down to one run, runners at first and second. Andrew McCutchen ripped the first pitch he saw into the gap. It was his first extra base hit and RBIs of the Classic. He provided the bullpen the cushion they would not need. Now Team USA is headed to a semifinal matchup against Japan. In case you were wondering, McCutchen’s current stat line is two for 13 with a double and two clutch RBIs. Sometimes its better to be clutch then good all the time (but seriously Cutch we won’t be mad if you turn it on in the next game).
Whether you are an American or a Dominican, take the time to watch the last couple WBC games. I took the chance this year and it has been an extremely enjoyable experience watching other cultures play the game we all love.